Monday, January 18, 2010

The Wheels on the Bus....

A recent conversation about the threatened budget cuts that would eliminate free transit passes for New York City school children this coming spring reminded us about the broader issue of student transportation. Whether New York City gets its fiscal act together to continue the long standing practice of providing school children with Metrocards that allow students to travel between home and school, or whether parents will be hit with the substantial expense of paying for their childrens' rides, remains unresolved at the present.

But another transportation issue comes up from time to time with the families we see. Students who learn differently sometimes benefit from attending a private school with specfic supports for their learning issues. Whether students are placed in a private school by their district, which has determined that the public school system cannot provide an appropriate education, or whether the student has been enrolled by his parents, who are seeking a better educational setting than they believe the public school can provide, the rules for transportation are the same. If a student needs transportation to access the private school, it should be provided as a "related service" under the IDEA (The Individuals with Disabilties Education Act). In New York State outside of city districts, schools are generally not required to provide transportation for a regular nonpublic school  that is more than 15 miles from a student's residence. For students with disabilities, transportation is generally provided for attendence at private schools within 50 miles of a student's residence. Families seeking transportation to private schools are required to give notice by April 1st of the year preceding the one in which transport will be required.

Even parents who unilaterally place their children in private, special education settings which they intend to pay for out of their own pocket may want to consider obtaining an IEP under the IDEA that provides for transportation services. It can be a real benefit to families to have the public school district provide this expensive and important service. And remember, for students in private schools it is the district where the school is located, rather than the district where the student resides, which is the district responsible for developing the IEP.

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